ONS Head Calls for More ‘Seats at the Table’

June 1, 2002

WASHINGTON, DC-Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) President Paula T. Rieger, RN, MSN, has made "more seats at the table" her model for internal ONS matters, for improving oncology practice, and for giving nurses and patients more voice in health policy. An advanced practice nurse, Clinical Cancer Prevention, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Ms. Rieger discussed these issues in her presidential address to the 27th Annual Congress of the Oncology Nursing Society. With 30,000-members, ONS is the world’s largest professional oncology association.

WASHINGTON, DC—Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) President Paula T. Rieger, RN, MSN, has made "more seats at the table" her model for internal ONS matters, for improving oncology practice, and for giving nurses and patients more voice in health policy. An advanced practice nurse, Clinical Cancer Prevention, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Ms. Rieger discussed these issues in her presidential address to the 27th Annual Congress of the Oncology Nursing Society. With 30,000-members, ONS is the world’s largest professional oncology association.

Ms. Rieger also dispatched 500 well-briefed oncology nurses to Capitol Hill to express concern about the worsening nursing shortage and to urge passage of the Nursing Reinvestment Act. At the time of the ONS meeting, the act was stuck in conference committee over differences in the House and Senate versions.

The oncology nurses are also trying to enlighten Congressional policy makers about oral cancer medications, which are not covered by Medicare unless the medications also exist in an injectable form. To redress this situation, ONS supports the Access to Cancer Therapies Act (H.R. 1624/S. 913).

Inviting Diversity

This effort reflects one of ONS’s major objectives: to gain more seats at the tables of health policy-makers. Another is to make the organization more diverse and inclusive.

ONS has eliminated most of its standing committees and uses flexible project teams to address issues affecting oncology nursing. Members put their names into a database of potential volunteers and are asked to work on teams based on their interests and experience.

"Ask yourself, What table might I like a seat at? What table might I invite others to sit at?" Ms. Rieger said.

Ms. Rieger also said that ONS is expanding leadership training to prepare nurses to function more effectively when they are asked to take a seat at the table of organizations such as the National Cancer Advisory Board or to lobby Congressional members and staff.

The ONS Public Service Award for 2002 went to a nurse described by Ms. Rieger as a role model for effective leadership—Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Ca), author of the Nursing Reinvestment Act.